Summary: SPIRITUAL DISCERNMENT Having a key in your hand is useless, unless you know how to use that key.
At a former church, the day I started my job as an associate pastor I was given a set of keys to the church by one of the Trustees, Bill. Bill told me, “Peter, these are not all the keys to the church, we are only giving you four keys: One key to the church building, one key to your office, one key the church office, and one key the Sunday school class rooms. If you need to get into other rooms, you will find the rest of the keys in the top drawer in the church office.”
Well, for some time those four keys were all I needed, but one day I needed to get into several other rooms. So I went into the church office, looked in the top drawer, and there sat this enormous ring of keys to the church, exactly as Bill had said. I said out loud, “This is crazy, anyone could find these keys and then get into any room in this church.” Our church secretary laughed...and kept on working.
First I went to the pantry and after rifling through the keys for quite some time, I finally found the key labeled pantry on the key ring. There must have been 75 keys on this ring, so it took awhile to find the right key. I inserted the key into the lock on the door, it didn’t work. I attempted to open the door for several minutes - nothing.
So I moved on to the shed behind the church. After several minutes I found the key marked shed. I inserted the key - nothing. After several minutes of working the lock I had no success. I tried the choir room, the youth room and one of the storage rooms, but not a single key worked.
Frustrated, I went back into the church office and told our church secretary that none of the keys worked. She just laughed and said, “Talk to Luis.” Luis was our sexton and was in charge of all the cleaning and maintenance in the church.
I found Luis and told him my frustration with the keys. Luis said, “Peter, all the keys work just fine, you just have to memorize what key fits what lock.”
You see, all the keys were mislabel. The key labeled pantry would never work on the pantry, the key labeled pantry was for the dumpster; The dumpster key was for the soundboard; the soundboard key was for electrical room #3; The key to the pastor’s office was to the water heater closet in building #4 and so on. There was about 15 working keys, all mislabeled and the rest of the keys didn’t go to anything, they were just useless decoys.
Luis taught me the system of how the keys were organized. Once I got the label/key secret code down it was easy. Luis had created this intricate key system so that only those who knew the key system would find the keys useful, all others would be locked out.
The fact is, I not only needed the keys to the church, I also needed to know the person who created the keys to make the keys useful. For the person who made the keys could teach me how to use the keys.
Having a key in your hand is useless, unless you know how to use that key.
Jesus promised Peter the keys to the kingdom of heaven Matt 16:19 “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” We saw in our text this morning that Peter is now on his way to Caesarea, those keys jingling in his pocket.
Peter was given the keys to the kingdom of heaven, but Peter needed to know how to use those keys. Here in our passage today, along with our passage from last week, we see God teaching Peter how to use the keys he was given. To use the keys to the kingdom of heaven, Peter needs to be able to discern spiritually.
Peter used to use his experience, education, intelligence and intuition to make a judgment about something or someone - just like he always had. But, now, as a Christian, Peter is called upon to make a judgment in a new way, by the Spirit.
Last week we saw that when we are born again and become a Christian we are given a new nature, Paul calls this our spiritual nature. We have this new nature, our spiritual nature, but we still retain our old nature - who we have always been. Our challenge is to learn to live by this new nature and to unlearn living by our old nature.